Domestic abuse, the other deadly killer

The prospect of isolation for several months is daunting, but abuse support workers say isolation with an abuser is like a “pressure cooker”.

As Covid-19 works its way through the UK and the rest of the world it would seem that the measures put in place by governments are the right thing to do to protect people’s health. For some health is the least of their concern. Experts have already warned that the isolation instructions set out by the government are likely to cause an increase in domestic abuse cases.

Already Berkshire Women’s Aid has seen a sharp increase in cases of families “fleeing to refuge”, a result of the Covid-19 outbreak according to the charity.

Unfortunately, the knock-on effect the lockdown has had on domestic abuse is not just a problem in the UK. The French government announced on Monday it would house victims of domestic abuse in hotels and implement pop up counselling in grocery stores in response to a surge in domestic violence cases since the lockdown begun on March 17.

If you are or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse it is important to know what abuse is and how to safely seek help in the midst of a national lockdown.

What is abuse?

The term abuse is simple to define, according to the Gale Encyclopaedia of Medicine abuse is as follows: abuse is defined as any action that intentionally harms or injures another person. Simply put, any action that is committed purposely to harm another is abuse.

What types of abuse are there?

Abuse is just an umbrella term for the different types of abuse people experience. Aside from physical abuse, which most are familiar with, abuse can come in the form of the following:

• Domestic violence or abuse
• Sexual abuse
• Psychological or emotional abuse
• Financial or material abuse
• Modern slavery
• Discriminatory abuse
• Organisational or institutional abuse
• Neglect or acts of omission
• Self-neglect

Have the government put measures in place for victims of abuse?

At the moment the guidance from the government is to seek help. There are some charities and organisations open as normal, and ready to help individuals and families at risk. Nicola Sturgeon urged those suffering from domestic abuse to not hesitate to get help. She said, “Help is available now and you should not hesitate to come forward and get it,”- this was echoed by the home secretary Priti Patel who confirmed that women can leave violent households to go to a refuge during the lockdown period.

How can I support someone I know during lockdown?

Under normal circumstances those going through violent circumstances would be able to seek help outside the home or staying at a friend’s place would be an option also. Yet given the strict isolation instructions it can be hard to be there for someone in need. If and where possible reach out to them, being in lockdown with an abuser can feel even more isolating. On the other hand, if you suspect someone is being abusive reach out to them, turning a blind eye won’t help. Also use the services mentioned below if you’re worried about someone locked in an abusive household.

Where can I get help?

Call 999 if you’re in immediate danger, press 55 if you are in danger and can’t speak on the phone.

National Domestic Abuse Helpline provides guidance and support for potential victims for free and in confidence, 24 hours a day on 0808 2000 247.

Woman’s Aid has provided additional advice specifically for the Covid-19 outbreak, this includes a live char service.

Men’s Advice Line is there to provide support for male victims of domestic abuse, it can be contacted on, 0808 801 0327.

Respect Phoneline is for anyone worried about hurting someone, call 0808 8024040 to receive guidance on managing your behaviour.

Image courtesy of Natnn on Shuttershock (Photo ID: 617496536)
Infographic created on Canva

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